Mayhem - Grand Declaration of War( 2018 remaster) [Season Of Mist - 2018]Formed in 1984 by tragic guitarist/band leader Euronymous, bassist Necrobutcher and drummer Manheim, Mayhem are a phenomenon that have never been far from controversy, whether that is the suicide of frontman Dead, Euronymousís murder at the hands of Count Grishnakh (varg Vikernes), church burnings, accusations of racism, the list goes on. What often gets overlooked is the amazing music the band have produced during their long and mostly successful career.
After the release of their classic full-length debut De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas in 1994, the band would take another six years before releasing its full length follow up Grand Declaration of War. Several live albums and EPs would bridge the gap and so it never felt as thought they were away for quite so long. Grand Declaration of War was released in 2000 and featured Maniac who rejoined the band in 1995 alongside new guitarist Blasphemer. Between them the album was theirs, Maniac wrote all of the lyrics and Blasphemer all of the music despite the fact they were the new boys. This is what gave the album such a unique sound for the time.
Flash forward 18 years and Grand Declaration of War remains one of my favourite Mayhem albums, in fact it remains one of my favourite Black Metal albums in general. The album is musically much more interesting than a lot of Black Metal of that period, featuring a lot of melody and loads of progressive touches. Seeing the band step away from the more aggressive style of previous releases to mix things up and present a more rounded sound with greater musical depth to it makes for an interesting listen. This is largely down to the technical prowess of Blasphemer who brought new levels of musicality to Mayhemís sound, whilst also preserving their ability to play fast and aggressively. Interesting and diverse time signatures are all over the album and really set it apart from the other material in their back catalogue, and whilst I still adore De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas, this is a worthy follow up. They donít attempt to repeat the formula, they grow and develop as both musicians and a band, and that is something that has always appealed to me.
The new remastering job by Jamie Gomez Arellano was undertaken at Orgone Studios in the UK. Jamie added greater warmth and depth to the sound. He was able to beef up the drum sound and pretty much rebuild the bass sound. The results are pretty startling. The album sounds crisp and vibrant and that horrible shallow rhythm section has been replaced by something far more muscular and deserving of the title Black Metal. The finished article has a lovely clear sound, even the vocals, which often get lost in the mix on Black Metal albums of the era can be clearly discerned above the music. The sound is at odds with a lot of Black Metal releases of the time, and whilst not strictly speaking commercial it is the sound of a band experimenting with fresh ideas and trying to evolve their sound beyond what it had been up to this point. Jeff Wagner compared Grand Declaration of War to Celtic Frostís Into the Pandemonium, a game changing record that changed the world of Black Metal forever. Who am I to argue with that?Darren Charles